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World Toilet Day: Importance of Preventing Sanitation-Associated Infectious Diseases

NOV 17, 2017 | KRISTI ROSA
  • Cholera. WHO defines cholera as an “acute enteric infection” which is often caused by ingesting the bacterium Vibrio cholera via infected water or food. Poor sanitation and the lack of access to safe, clean water are key contributors to the disease. Cholera is often found in underdeveloped countries where environmental infrastructures have been weakened or completely broken down due to political conflicts or natural disasters. One such example of how a lack of access to clean water can lead to mass infections is the outbreak that sprung up in the Central African Republic (CAR)—what the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) identified as “the first cholera outbreak in CAR since 2011.” According to UNICEF, the outbreak’s origin was in Djoukou, located within the Kemo district. In this area, many individuals are without access to safe water; in fact, for many of them, their main water source is the Oubangui River. Because of intensive efforts to improve sanitation conditions and promote education on the disease, the outbreak came to an end in December 2016.

  • Hepatitis A. Although, these sanitary-related diseases are known to cause the most damage in underdeveloped countries, a handful of hepatitis A outbreaks occurring in California can remind those of us in developed countries that these diseases can spring up anywhere. The cases associated with the San Diego Hepatitis A outbreak consist mainly of homeless individuals who do not have access to safe, clean toilets, and who practice open defecation because of the lack of options. Efforts are being made by officials and nonprofits alike to clean up some of the homeless encampments along the San Diego River, but to date, the outbreak is ongoing, with 546 individuals infected thus far and 20 lives lost.

  • The theme for this year’s World Toilet Day focuses on wastewater. According to the United Nations (UN), the main question to ask is “Where does our poo go?” Here are the 4 steps that everyone’s waste needs to take to tackle the global sanitation crisis, according to the UN:
    • Containment via hygienic toilet, sealed pit/tank—away from human contact
    • Transport via pipes or toilet emptying services to move it on to the next stage
    • Treatment, or processing waste into treated wastewater to be returned to the environment safely
    • Disposal or reuse, where waste can be used for something else, such as fertilizer in food production

    Feature Picture Source: UN Water.
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